Dalton Pittman Kyu Grade Thesis.
By Dalton Pittman
I have had the desire to take Aikido since I was 16. My
cousin’s boyfriend at the time was a black belt in Judo. Though I wanted to take
Karate, I was advised to try Aikido instead since it was a newer martial art. So
for years the thought of taking this art stirred in my head. I took 8 weeks from
a student of Bruce Lee in Albuquerque, New Mexico (I saw a photo of Bruce and my
Sifu). When I was at the University of Washington in Seattle (where Bruce Lee attended
some time before), they had Hapkido, but no Aikido. So I took one quarter of Kendo
for a lark. In Southern California I dropped by an Aikido studio and watched the
Aikidoka tumbling on what appeared to be a bamboo floor in West Los Angeles. Pretty
cool stuff. For whatever reason, I put off taking it (probably because it was too
far from home).
August 2nd, 2008
It wasn’t until I started working at Lockheed Martin Corp.
and met Arun Mathur (through a fellow Computer Scientist that worked out at Lilburn)
that I was alerted to Aikido in Marietta, GA. So I showed up to check it out. I
frankly dropped my jaw when they did their forward tumbles. I’ve never had any gymnastics
training and am intrinsically inflexible. Having run 9 marathons and done other
distance races, my natural acumen falls under endurance. I did the Las Vegas marathon
in 2005 at just under 9 minutes per miles. In 1999, I ran it just under 7:43 per
mile. In high school, being a 2 miler by training, I did a 3:03:56 marathon at 7:01
per mile (with only a 20 mile training run the week before (plus the usual interval
training for endurance and speed)). Regretfully, I pulled my right calf after that
2005 marathon. I entered the Peachtree Road Race that year and finished in the top
3% (out of 55,000 runners). Unfortunately, I pulled my calf muscle and it never
seemed to heal (until I found out about dynamic stretching of the calf muscle; I’ve
never had a problem since). Ever since 2005, it’s been running myself back into
shape. It could be the weather, my weight, diet, and general conditioning that will
take time for results.
This is where Aikido fits the bill. I started Aikido at
age 45. I took it in baby steps initially… partly due to fear (fear of falling (forward,
backward, or sutemi) and fear of getting hurt (like from ikkyo, nikkyo, or sankyo)).
However, Shihan Scott Kelley has been a trooper. He knows what’s what. He knew I
had little or no acumen to do a forward roll. So he found opportunities for me to
fall without getting hurt. And so I think my forward roll is my best at this time
(though I tend to want to attack the roll instead of gently rolling (eventually
I’ll take it quite easy)). At this time, I have not successfully done a backwards
roll due to my lack of flexibility. The same goes for shikko. With diligent work
to get more flexible, these hurdles will be surmounted. For my age , Aikido
is keeping me alive. My weight is up there, but morale is good. I hope to get it
down with Aikido and running.
I have not always attended class in a diligent manner. Sometimes
due to illness, work, girlfriend’s honey dos, or just wanting to have a beer and
unwind, I didn’t realize absence would work against one’s advancement. I didn’t
realize that the hours to reach various ranks were cumulative in the student manual.
It is my intent to keep going to class in a more diligent manner than in the past.
Aikido is pretty cool. It’s almost like a midpoint between
the Christian “if a man strikes you on your cheek, turn your cheek and let him strike
that, too”, and an offensive martial art. It’s a way of redirecting one’s negative
energy with control and poise by the nage.
Aikido uses principles of physics. Energy from a solid mechanics
standpoint can be described by kinetic and potential energies. So when a uke is
set up by the nage, it takes a very short time (about 0.1 to 2.0 seconds, inclusive,
for an expert Aikidoka) to put the uke into a kinetic energy state. When it comes
to potential energy, this would be the set up of the uke by the nage. He might have
the uke off balance at an angle. Eventually, depending on the technique, he can
move uke in translational kinetic energy (1/2 times mass times velocity squared)
and/or rotational kinetic energy (1/2 times inertia (about mass times height squared)
times circular frequency squared (or the square of the quantity [time derivative
of angle theta with respect to time]).
Ki is an interesting subject and a bit abstract at that.
I recall in my high school physics class we went into this mind game about mass
and weight. Few people were able to grasp the clarity between the two. I can say
the same thing about ki. It’s a life force, energy, the vital energy of nature.
I want to say that somehow it has to do with the aura we have, or the heat we put
out that is detected by infrared means. But along the way of harmony, I’ll start
to understand its secrets. And I have many miles to go (though I have less sand
in the hour glass than most new practitioners).
I can’t say enough positives about Shihan Scott Kelley,
Sensei Mark Bloeth, and the rest of the Aikidoka at the Marietta dojo. They are
quite supportive and helpful. They realize I’m a coffee junky (sure puts the kibosh
into Principle number two (Relax completely). Since I realize the federal advisory
is for a maximum caffeine ingestion of between 200 and 250 mg, staying away from
Starbucks and having more tea will help in my Aikido practice.
Ever since a Human Behavior in Organizations class at Pepperdine
University in the Los Angeles area, I’ve had a keen interest in career tests. One
definition of careers is a series of jobs associated with one’s personality. Emotional
intelligence is one type of personality test. Having taken both the Minnesota Appraisal
of Personal Potential and Career Survey, both show a high propensity for dance type
activities. I’m not that wild about regular dancing. But I’ve always liked the discus
throw which is a combination of strength, speed, and ballet type movements. I could
point to Aikido as a martial art with fluid motion. One thing’s for sure: it ain’t
the Ice Capades. But it does rely on mobility. For a while I was doing my techniques
from my hands and arms, but my legs were like they were stuck in the mud. Shihan
Scott put out the jingle “Happy Feet” for my malaise. Yes, with Happy Feet, I’ll
be a better Aikidoka.
Aikido has given me a better appreciation of Japanese society.
What’s cool is that close to my work are two Japanese restaurants and a Japanese
book store (with Japanese kanji, no less). For years I’ve traveled to downtown Los
Angeles’ Little Tokyo for Shiatsu massages. I’ve even had an interest from time
to time to learn the Japanese kanji (as opposed to simply using the English character
Japanese words). After all, if the fictitious James Bond of You Only Live Twice
said he had a first in Oriental Languages at Cambridge University in England, why
shouldn’t I take some interest in the same?
Confidence is also elevated with a greater proficiency of
Aikido. In addition, one’s gait is different. It’s only natural after all the aiki-taisos
and other complement/supplement exercises and techniques.
Steven Seagal has given me some inspiration to take Aikido
in the 8 movies I have at home. I can see techniques from class (and tell what is
not Aikido). He’s no Marlon Brando nor Spencer Tracy. But he does entertain and
Reality = Imagination times visualization. This helps Aikido to be real.